Zombie 3 - Le Notti Del Terrore (1980)

(aka: Burial Ground, Night Of Terror, The Nights Of Terror, Zombie Horror, Zombi 3)

Directed by Andrea Bianchi

Produced by Gabriele Chrisanti

Starring Karin Well (Wilma Truccolo), Gianluigi Chirizzi, Simone Mattioli, Antonella Antinori, Robert Caporali, Claudio Zucchet, Peter Bark (?), Anna Valente, Renato (Raimondo) Barbieri, Maria Angela (Mariangela) Giordano

Zombie 3 - Le Notti Del Terrore (1980)

Film Review

With the widespread international success of Fabrizio De Angelis' unofficial 'prequel' to George A. Romero's "Dawn Of The Dead" (1978), "Zombi 2" (1979) (named directly after the Italian title of Romero's film, "Zombi"), Italian filmmakers were swift to see the colour of money in what would go on to become the lucrative "living dead" cycle. Marino Giorlami chipped in a virtual remake of Fulci's classic under encoring producer De Angelis with "Zombi Holocaust" (1979), Umberto Lenzi adopted the formula in "Nightmare City" (1980), and even notorious hack Bruno Mattei jumped on the band-wagon with the Z-grade "Virus" (1981) (aka: "Night Of The Zombies"; "Zombie Creeping Flesh"). It only seemed natural that another, once promising, Italian director would turn his hand to the poverty row end of the guaranteed box-office returns that the zombie-cycle offered. Under regular producer Gabriele Chrisanti, and with screenwriter Piero Regnoli ("The Playgirls And The Vampire") on board, Andrea Bianchi proffered forth one of the most askew titles amidst the sub-genre, "The Nights Of Terror" (1980).

Opening among the grounds of a remote Italian villa, archaeologist Professor Ayres (Barbieri) uncovers the key to life beyond death within the catacombs of uncharted Etruscan tombs. Inadvertedly reanimating the dead, his discovery costs him his life. Following shortly on the heels of his untimely demise, his weekend house-guests (and fellow researchers) arrive en-masse, becoming the catalysts for the carnage that ensues. Comprising couples Mark (Chirizzi) and Janet (Well), James (Mattioli) and Leslie (Antinori), as well as the off-kilter Evelyn (Giordano) and her creepy son Michael (Bark), the party of guests quickly make for lively candidates for the recently resuscitated Etruscan dead-heads cannibalistic desires. As day gives way to night, the guests find themselves trapped within the professor's villa-hideaway, with a slew of unwanted gate-crashers knocking at their front-door, desperate to lay their maggot-infested paws on their still warm vitals. Come dawn, how many of them will remain, and what will be left of them? The sleeve copy gives that away all too easily…

Bianchi's film is easily better than Mattei's later "Virus", but that's the best that can be said of this luridly scripted, insanely dubbed, sleaze-laden mess. Perhaps much of the blame, after pointing a derisory finger at Bianchi's pedestrian direction, lays squarely at the pen of scriptwriter Piero Regnoli. Regnoli's script is riddled with a 'go for the gross-out' mentality all too common of the genre, as well as thoroughly unlikable characters and an unhealthy undercurrent of sleazy perversion. Of course, the inanely dubbed English soundtrack doesn't help matters with remarkably stupid lines of the calibre of "You look just like a little whore, but I like that look on you" and the over-quoted stinker "Mama…this cloth smells of death" (and exactly HOW does a child know what 'death' smells like?). And anybody who's EVER heard of this film by now is already aware of the distastefully perverse sub-plot concerning Michael's feverishly Oedipal obsession with his mother that culminates in cheesily gory fashion. Yep, it's a right turgid fiasco, but there's an compellingly oddball side to the whole production that manages to elevate it to a plain that Bruno Mattei's "The Other Hell" of the same year also occupies. Sure, it's a bad film, but in this case that's part of the attraction.

Gianfranco Maioletti's cinematography is, for the most part, relatively uninspired and as facile as that of a telemovie, however there are a choice selection of moments where he captures a hitherto untapped atmosphere unapparent within the main body of the film. There are also a number of all too brief sequences where slow motion is utilised to rather striking effect, for a film that sets such consistently low targets. Elsio Mancuso and 'Bert Rexon's' score, while never rising to the lofty heights of a Goblin or Simonetti aria, remains remarkably bizarre, almost echoing the work of Popol Vuh (those that have experienced Herzog's "Nosferatu The Vampyre" will know what I mean). And lastly, there's the economic effects work of makeup artist Rosario Prestopino (pre-"Demons"), whose living dead remain curiously effective despite their (budgetary) shortcomings, and lavishes on the graphic gore in spades when Regnoli's script calls for it. When it comes down to brass tacks, it is Prestopino's effects work that imparts the main raison-de-etre for this film's (often misguided) cult status, as he capably apes the style of Fulci favourite Gianetto De Rossi on what was obviously an extremely limited budget.

Although I loathed Bianchi's film on first viewing, it has (begrudgingly) grown upon me as the weeks have passed, and it is not without reason that I can see the origins of its cult reputation (which the BBFC probably aided immensely simply by banning it!). If you find yourself equally enamoured by the almost-surreal ineptitude of the cinema of Bruno Mattei, then Andrea Bianchi's "The Nights Of Terror" has much to offer. Although nowhere near the lofty exploitation heights of his previous "Night Hair Child" (1972), "Strip Nude For Your Killer" (1975) or "Malabimba" (1979), this one is about the wackiest, most-bent, zombie film you're ever likely to see! Not a 'good' film in any common interpretation of that idiom, for sure, but as a 'so bad it's good' outing "Zombie 3" excels by the coffin-load.

Disc Review

Although listed on the sleeve as being presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85, Italian Shock's actual screen ratio for Bianchi's film is a lot closer to that of 1.66. The transfer has been lifted from a PAL Betacam master, and accordingly exhibits a number of issues associative with such a transfer. Although relatively clean apart from the odd hint of print damage, the overall image is noticeably soft, with oversaturated colours that tend to bleed and bloom with marked frequency, as well as a distinctive quota of haloing and ghosting within the image. However, although a problematic transfer, Bianchi has never (in my experience) been a director of visual consistency and I feel that much of the blame for the varying quality of the print may lie squarely within the poverty-row origins of the source materials. Although marginally disappointing by existing standards, this DVD edition is apparently light years ahead of most every other version out there. There are a few issues by way of print damage, but these are fairly redundant in the long run. Not a perfect picture, but far and away a major improvement over previous incarnations. Audio, in Dolby digital mono, is additionally perfectly acceptable, remaining clear and distinguished throughout.

Extras are limited to the Theatrical trailer, an animated Stills gallery that features both publicity photos and various international lobby cards & video sleeves, an Andrea Bianchi filmography and a replication of the insert booklet's Liner Notes. Overall, the fairly acceptable image quality, coupled with a relatively smooth audio track, and a slight but appreciative collection of extras make Italian Shock's disc a comparatively commendable recommendation for fans of Bianchi's gore-fest.

Review by Mike Thomason

Released by Italian Shock DVD Entertainment
Classified 16 - Region 2 (PAL)
Running time - 85m
Ratio - Widescreen 1.66
Audio - Dolby digital mono
Extras :
Theatrical trailer, Stills gallery, Liner notes, Andrea Bianchi filmography, Optional Dutch subtitles, 4pp insert booklet

© 2001, Icon In Black Media